Nonwovens Industry
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PGI


Location: North Charleston, SC

Sales: $734 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Jerry Zucker, chairman, president and CEO; James Schaeffer, executive vice president and president and COO of Nonwovens Division; Jim Boyd, executive vice president, treasurer and CFO; Thomas Phillips, senior vice president; Rick Ferencz, group vice president-engineering and Asia; Rick Pearce, vice president-industrial and new business development; David Yalenti, vice president-wiping products; Fernando Espinosa, vice president-Latin America; Rolf Altdorf, vice president-Europe, Middle East and Africa; William Spencer, vice president-Europe; Mike Hale, vice president, operations; Nyle Bishop, vice president, medical; Robert Dale, vice president, Apex

Plants
Landisville, NJ; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Neunkirchen, Germany; Cuijk, The Netherlands; Tilburg, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Cali, Colombia; Istanbul, Turkey; Molnlycke, Sweden

ISO Status
Landisville, NJ; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Nanhai, China, Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Molnlycke, Sweden, Istanbul, Turkey and Cuijk, The Netherlands facilities are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded, melt blown, SMS, composites, air through bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, wetlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, thermal laminated, APEX, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agribon, Amira, Bonclin, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Dry-Fit, Duralace, Dura-Tex, Empact, Ensorb, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Miratec, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Reticulon, Refortel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Ultra-Ply, Vignec, Waste-Set, Xiora

Major Markets
Agriculture, apparel, automotive, battery separator, cable wrap, filtration, home furnishings, hygiene, industrial, industrial and marine sorbents, medical, packaging, thermal barriers, wipes for cleanroom, food service and specialty end uses

The past 12 months have been challenging ones for N. Charleston, SC-based PGI Nonwovens, marked by a large-scale reorganization program and debt problems. In May, these troubles culminated with the company filing for “pre-negotiated” reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code. The filing came after a proposed restructuring plan failed to win approval from the minority of PGI’s senior note holders. In its filings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbia, SC, PGI indicated that it would reorganize on an expedited basis and expects to emerge from Chapter 11 by the end of the year. At the time of the Chapter 11 financing, PGI also received commitments for up to $125 million in debtor-in-possession financing from a group of lenders led by JP Morgan Chase to fund post-petition obligations. The filing included PGI’s 20 domestic subsidiaries; its international operations and joint ventures were excluded from the filing.
 
According to PGI executives, the company’s financial problems stemmed from a number of macrofactors including an aggressive capital investment program in 1999, high raw material costs, unfavorable exchange rates and an overcapacity situation in the spunmelt category, which has led to pricing erosions. “These factors were affecting everybody in the industry, but they came at a time when we were highly leveraged,” explained Robert Johnston, PGI’s vice president of strategic planning. “We had too much debt to be able to effectively handle all of the factors that developed simultaneously. Upon the near-term emergence from Chapter 11, PGI will be substantially better capitalized and a much stronger company.”
 
Before filing for Chapter 11, the company had received support for the major elements of the reorganization from its existing bank group and the holder of more than two-thirds of its outstanding bonds to implement the reorganization, which would have eliminated more than $550 million in debt through a reorganization of company finances. Additionally, the company had a commitment for up to $75 million in the form of new money investment for CSFB Global Opportunities Partners, a New York, NY-based investment fund. This plan, however, failed to win approval by a minority of PGI senior note holders, giving the company no other choice than to file for bankruptcy protection.
 
PGI’s debt problems began at the end of 2001 when its lenders exercised their rights to block bond payments after the company defaulted on a senior credit facility. Then, on March 25, some of the company’s aforementioned note holders tried to force PGI into involuntary Chapter 11 status after it was blocked from making two interest payments on $600 million in debt securities. The involuntary Chapter 11 petition was subsequently dismissed so the company and its creditors could negotiate a possible restructuring, but the company and the minority note holders could not come to terms. The court authorized PGI to continue certain actions, including entry into the DIP financial agreements, continuous wages and benefits to employees without interruption and payment of certain pre-filing obligations, despite its Chapter 11 status.
 
While company executives described the Chapter 11 filing as an “unfortunate situation for its business” for some of its partners and shareholders, it has not affected business as usual for PGI. “We have been able to meet all of our orders,” said James Schaeffer, executive vice president and CCO of PGI’s Nonwovens Division. “There has been absolutely no interruption to our business.”
 
Additionally, executives expect PGI to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger entity with a reduced debt load and a secure financial structure. “This is a not a company that has a bad product or a bad plan,” Mr. Johnston said. “It is a good company in a good industry that just had too much debt to carry during an industry slowdown.”
 
In addition to the financial restructuring plan, PGI has been focusing on other cost reduction practices to improve its bottom line. In November, PGI launched a restructuring plan designed to save the company $55-60 million annually and reduce its global workforce by 14%. The restructuring was viewed by the company as an important step in positioning PGI to return to growth and profitability in coming quarters. Now that the restructuring plan is complete, PGI has no plans for future employee layoffs. Instead the company will rely on best practices to control costs.
 
In terms of growth, PGI has continued its focus on Latin America as an important growth area. In April, the company announced the addition of a new spunbond line at its Bonlam facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The new line will target the Latin American medical, industrial and hygiene markets when it comes onstream in 2003. In addition to Bonlam, PGI has plants in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Cali, Colombia. “We are a leader in Latin America with plants strategically located all around the region,” Mr. Schaeffer re­marked. “Not only do we focus on different areas of the region, we offer all different technologies and we will continue to expand there in the future.”
 
In Asia, the company’s Nanhai, China plant continues to meet expectations. The facility, which contains two spunbond lines, produces material for hygiene, medical and agricultural applications in a variety of Asian markets. PGI purchased the Nanhai site in 1999 and added the second spunbond line in 2000, poising the company for an Asian recovery.
  
In the U.S., the major news from PGI was the downsizing of its Landisville, NJ plant last summer. The plan reduced the operations at the plant by relocating some of its thermal bonding production to PGI’s Rogers, AK site. Additionally, 70 of the plant’s 135 positions were eliminated. While reducing operations in Landisville made good business sense to the company, PGI has no plans to close the facility or any of its 25 other production sites around the world.
 
Of continued interest for PGI is its Miratec business and its Apex technology. While PGI completed the bulk of its investment in this portion of the business in 1999, the company continues to predict the technology will form the backbone of its future growth. Mr. Schaeffer said. “It’s a truly advanced technology and we can do things with it that no one else can.”
 
One prime area where Miratec, an engineered material formed through an Apex process, shows definite potential is the apparel industry. Most recently, Levi Strauss has been selling dungarees under its Engineered Jeans label. Additional areas where Miratec seems to have opportunity include upholstery and furniture, filtration and automotive.
 
While Apex and Miratec have been important parts of PGI’s research and development efforts during the past three or four years, other segments have not been ignored. For instance, the company’s hygiene business remains an important entity within PGI, and the company is constantly working on new products to differentiate itself from the competition. In fact, one of the ways in which PGI distinguishes itself on the playing field is through its strong commitment to research and development. Despite its financial troubles, the company has maintained its commitment to investing in innovations, keeping its research and development budget around $20 million per year.
 
“We will continue to use technology to enhance our business,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “We are receiving an increasing number of patents based on initiatives begun during the past few years. Our research and development capabilities is one of the benefits a large company such as PGI has over regional players. It’s one of the key factors that separates us from the competition.”
 
In other news, the company’s partnership with automotive supplier Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, WI, continues to expand PGI’s U.S. automotives business. Under the terms of the agreement, PGI assists Johnson in producing fabrics for vehicle ceiling and door panel applications that also act as sound insulation. Johnson and PGI are reportedly expanding into additional product areas with the agreement. Additionally, PGI has formed a supply agreement to produce a proprietary Miratec/Apex fabric for the DuPont Advanced Fibers Systems Business. DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems group is offering thermal protective apparel using DuPont’s Nomex fiber and PGI’s Apex fabric forming technology to provide unique features and benefits in protective apparel.
 
For the future, PGI will take several steps to achieve growth. For now, the company’s number one priority is emerging from Chapter 11. Once that hurdle is passed, the company will continue to focus on innovation, take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets and develop new products through a strong research and development effort. “That’s the way we are structured,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “The nonwovens industry can expect to see good things from PGI in the future.”
Location: North Charleston, SC

Sales: $750 million

Description: "Key Personnel
James Schaeffer, chairman and CEO; Jim Boyd, executive vice president, treasurer and CFO; Rick Rerencz, group vice president—engineering and Asia; Rick Pierce, vice president, Industrial products; Fernando Espinosa, vice president-Latin America; Rolf Altdorf, vice president-Europe; William Spence, vice president-Fabrene; Mike Hale, senior vice president of U.S. operations; Robert Dale, vice president of medical and wipes

Plants
Landisville, NJ; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesvile, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Neunkirchen, Germany; Cuijk, The Nether­lands; Tilburg, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Cali, Colombia; Istanbul, Turkey; Molnlycke, Sweden

ISO Status
Landisville, NC; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Nanhai, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Molnlycke, Sweden; Istanbul, Turkey and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown, SMS, composites, air through bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, wetlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, thermal laminated, apex, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agribon, Amira, Bonclin, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Dry-Fit, Duralace, Dura-Tex, Empact, Ensorb, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Miratec, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Ultra-Ply, Vignec, Waste-Set, Xiora

Major Markets
Agriculture, apparel, automotive, battery separator, cable wrap, filtration, home furnishings, hygiene, industrial, industrial and marine sorbents, medical, packaging, thermal barriers, wipes for cleanroom, food service and specialty end uses


A renewed focus and commitment to its core businesses characterize much of the efforts being made by PGI Nonwovens, N. Charleston, SC. The company, which emerged from Chapter 11 in March, after only nine months of reorganization, has elected a new CEO and developed a six-pronged strategy to bring its business forward.
 
“We are now in a period of stabilization, and we are feeling good,” explained CEO James Schaeffer. “After a short period of bankruptcy, we have emerged with a significantly lessened debt load. Basically, all of our goals have been accomplished.”
 
A 27-year veteran of PGI and PGI-owned companies, Mr. Schaeffer replaced former CEO Jerry Zucker, who stepped down from the top spot in early March, one week after PGI emerged from bankruptcy.   
 
Mr. Schaeffer, who had formerly led PGI’s nonwovens business, said he and the company have learned from past mistakes—which contributed to the bankruptcy—and are well positioned for the future as an industry innovator. “We are more customer-focused than we were in the past and we have decided that we are better served by focusing on our core markets of hygiene, medical, consumer and industrial,” he said. “We won’t take our focus off of these areas again.”
 
PGI’s U.S. business entered into “pre-negotiated” reorganization under Chapter 11 in May 2002 after a proposed restructuring plan failed to win the requisite approval from PGI’s senior note holders. The filing was the culmination of several factors including an aggressive capital investment program centered around apparel-replacement technology, rising raw material costs, unfavorable exchange rates and overcapacity in the spunmelt segment.
 
As a result of the bankruptcy reorganization, PGI is now majority owned by Matlin Patterson, a private investment fund, which is able to provide PGI with secure financial backing. The bankruptcy process allowed PGI to reduce its debt  from $1.2 billion to less than $500 million.
 
Despite its past problems, PGI has a lot to look forward to. The company maintained its day-to-day operations during bankruptcy, was able to pay all of its vendors, dollar for dollar, during the reorganization period and did not lose any major suppliers or customers during the crisis. While executives are keen on demonstrating how these facts clearly prove the strength of PGI’s position in the nonwovens industry, they are not resting on their laurels just yet. Instead, the company is focusing on gaining new customers and creating innovation to move it forward into the next phase of its business cycle. “We didn’t lose that much but we didn’t gain much either in the bankruptcy process,” Mr. Schaeffer explained.  “Now, we are being invited back into the fray in terms of new business. In the next 6-12 months, we will definitely enter a growth period.”
 
To expedite this growth, PGI in September, announced a six-part plan to move its nonwovens business into the future. The first step in this strategy is a decision to focus on its core businesses—hygiene, medical, wipes and specialty, instead of trying to supply to a wide range of markets. In hygiene, which has faced troubles including pricing pressures and competition associated with most commodity-oriented markets, PGI hopes the streamlining practices—including a more than 20% reduction in workforce—it adopted prior to entering bankruptcy will help it remain successful.  Additionally, the company hopes to benefit from being innovative, particularly in production practices.
 
Meanwhile, the medical segment for nonwovens has softened  in recent years due to shifts in technology. In the future, the company expects spunlaced and spunmelt products to gain acceptance in medical markets in many of the world’s key regions, and as one of its major suppliers, PGI will benefit from this growth. Still, executives are mindful that they have to do more than simply exist in a market to be successful. “We have worked really hard at meeting price targets,” Mr. Schaeffer explained. “For instance, we have already patented technology to help us increase our line speeds.”
 
The second part of this plan calls for a streamlining of manufacturing processes across all of its markets. This philosophy has, so far, led to the discontinuation of operations at PGI’s wetlaid plant in North Little Rock, AR and a consolidation of its Guntown, MS facility. The wetlaid plant has served its customers and markets for more than 30 years, however it is a pulp-based process outside of the scope of the company’s core business. Meanwhile, Guntown will continue to operate as a converting and full-service distribution center for PGI’s FabPro division as other areas of its operations are consolidated into other locations.
 
Thirdly, PGI will rely on customer-driven innovation. Future research and development efforts will center around the needs and wants of its customers rather than being conducted in a vacuum. Executives are confident that its customers will reward this type of innovation.
 
Fourth on PGI’s list of strategies is the formation of long-term partnerships both on the customer and supplier side of the business. Having recognized the loyalty of both its customers and suppliers during its bankruptcy proceedings, PGI is aware of how important these relationships are to stabilizing business.
 
The fifth part of the growth plan is expansion into key markets. While approximately 79% of the company’s sales are conducted in the U.S., Canada and Europe, PGI operates a sophisticated manufacturing network with facilities located strategically throughout the world. One area of key interest is Latin America, where PGI is currently in the process of expanding a manufacturing site in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The new spunbond line at the facility, which currently houses multiple nonwovens production technologies, is set to come onstream later this year. It will target the industrial and hygiene markets in the Americas. In addition to the Bonlam site, PGI has plants in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Cali, Colombia. In total, Latin America represents about 13% of PGI’s overall business.
 
Meanwhile, Asia is also an important growth area for PGI; the company added a second spunbond line to its Nanhai, China site last year and continues to explore growth options for this region.
 
Finally, PGI will pay more attention to its balance sheets to avoid repeating its past mistakes. One of the major factors that led PGI to bankruptcy was an aggressive investment strategy surrounding its Apex technology during a time when the industry was not ready. Recognizing that bad timing in the textile replacement category contributed heavily to its past financial problems, PGI has lessened its focus on Miratec, the company’s spunlaced fabric made through Apex technology. The company constructed two Apex lines, aimed at the apparel market, at its North Little Rock facility in 1999, an investment that weighed heavily on the company’s bottom line.
 
Now that the focus has shifted from Miratec, the company is adapting the Apex technology to other areas including filtration, automotive, specialty wipes and industrial applications, where growth is more likely. In filtration, PGI’s Durapex product continues to perform well, while automotives has experienced substantial growth during the past three years. Apex technology is also being appreciated by wipes companies. The advanced fabric formation technology, which is a part of the Apex process, is capable of 30-40% better lint particle pick-up than standard spunlaced materials, meaning a smaller substrate is needed to do the same job.
 
PGI’s past financial problems have left it leaner than ever. In November 2001, before entering bankruptcy, PGI launched a restructuring plan designed to save it $55-60 million annually and reduce its global workforce by 14%. In addition to the personnel cuts, PGI has focused on other cost-cutting efforts to improve margins during the past two years. These practices have also made PGI more adept at making quick decisions to move with the industry.
 
This six-part plan will be critical to PGI’s success in the future, and executives conceded they would be unveiling several new plans and initiatives, centered around these strategies, in coming months. “We are trying to grow and develop the company with the customer in mind,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “If you don’t do this, you’ll end up going down different paths.”
 
Achieving these goals will be critical for success in the nonwovens industry, which has been characterized lately by depressed margins and pricing pressures, according to Mr. Schaeffer, however, these factors are merely cyclical. He envisions a future of steady growth for nonwovens which will reward companies that are well poised in three areas—cost effectiveness, innovation and the ability to be in the right place, at the right time.
 
While global penetration is part of PGI’s strategy for future growth, paramount is its ability to respond quickly to market demands by focusing on its core businesses. With that in mind, the rest of 2003 will be spent laying the groundwork for return to profitability in the nonwovens industry, while 2004 will be the year for the company to return to growth. While the past couple of years have been tough, the company considers them a learning experience and is confident that success will once again be gained. “The past two or three years, we have been in transition mode,” Mr. Schaeffer explained. “Now we are focusing in improving our core business while growing in emerging markets.”
Location: North Charleston, SC

Sales: $730 MILLION

Description: Key Personnel
James Schaeffer, chief executive officer; Willis (Billy) Moore, III, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, group vice president—U.S.—nonwovens operations; Rolf Altdorf, vice president and managing director—Europe, Middle East and Africa; Fernando Espinosa, vice president and general manager—Latin America; Rick Ferencz, group vice president—development; Bob Dale, vice president—U.S. sales; Dennis Norman, vice president—strategic planning and communication.

Plants
Landisville, NJ; Rogers, AR; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Neunkirchen, Germany; Cuijk, the Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Cali, Colombia; Molnlycke, Sweden

ISO Status
Landisville, NC; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA, Nanhai, China, Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Molnlycke, Sweden, Istanbul, Turkey and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded meltblown, SMS, composites, air through bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, thermal laminated, Apex, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Provira, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, SuperSoftTopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Major Markets
Agriculture, apparel, automotive, battery separator, cable wrap, filtration, home furnishings, hygiene, industrial, industrial and marine sorbents, medical, packaging, thermal barriers, wipes for cleanroom, food service and specialty end uses, consumer wipes, household wipes.

With corporate sales up more than $22 million to $778 million and nonwovens sales clocking in at $730 million, Polymer Group Inc. is proving that it is on the right course for the future. The company’s impressive sales gains come only months after the company’s restructuring and have been attributed mainly to hard work and a strong focus at the North Charleston-based company.
 
These sales gains have continued into 2004. For the first quarter ended March 31, PGI reported sales of $206 million, representing the highest level since the second quarter of 2001. Gross profit increased 15% to $38.5 million. In announcing these results, CEO James Schaeffer attributed the strong sales to momentum achieved during the second half of 2003, sustained operating improvements and manufacturing efficiencies.
 
Much of this success can be attributed to a six-point strategy designed to keep PGI on track for the future. They include focusing on core businesses, streamlining manufacturing, relying on customer-driven innovation, forming long-term partnerships, expanding into key markets and attending to the balance sheets.
 
“Our recent success is truly a testament to the caliber of the people at PGI,” Mr. Schaeffer explained. “We have been executing every single point of our strategic plan and it’s working.”
 
In April, PGI’s strength was proven when it  received commitments to refinance its senior secured bank facility with a new $475 million syndicated facility led by Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. This represented the final stage of a stabilization process begun in early 2003 that now allows PGI to be 100% focused on growing its business. In July, it received debt for equity financing, allowing it to convert $42 million in junior notes into preferred shares.
 
“It’s proof that we are doing well,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “If there was any doubt that we weren’t strong, we wouldn’t have gotten that financing.”
 
Now that its finances are resolved, PGI is  honing its attention to core markets of medical, hygiene, wipes and a few industrial applications. In hygiene, opportunities are seen in diapers, feminine hygiene items and baby wipes. In April, the company introduced Comfortlace fabrics, which are characterized by customized appearance, greater absorbency and superior comfort for absorbent products. Made with PGI’s proprietary LACE (Laminar Air Controlled Embossing) technology, these fabrics contain a soft, three-dimensional imaged or bulky surface layer to a reticulated film, which directs liquids away from the skin and into the absorbent core. Beyond Comfortlace, other highlights of PGI’s hygiene business include the introduction of a spunbond polyethylene topsheet, the development of fabrics with superior softness and commercialization of proprietary fabrics with superior barrier performance at low component basis weights.
 
“One of the ways that we are remaining competitive is by trying to focus on the high value side of the market, in all of our core areas,” said Dennis Norman, vice president of strategic planning and communication.
 
In the wipes market, PGI has earmarked 40,000 tons of its Apex and other types of spunlaced capacity to the market. “We want to catch a wave in this wipes trend,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “We are already a global leader in spunlace with our Apex technology so we modified the assets to make not only heavyweight materials but also lightweight.”
 
Reconfiguring existing Apex technology will give PGI an advantage over other spunlaced capacity set to come onstream in the U.S. in coming months. These competitors are already a step behind as they wait for their lines to come onstream.
 
Meanwhile, the medical business recently launched Medisoft, a polyethylene-based spunmelt product that lacks the rubbery feel of polyester and is 50% softer than standard spunmelt fabrics for medical applications. These fabrics combine softness and barrier properties to give healthcare workers greater comfort while maintaining a high level of protection, responding to the two key concerns of healthcare workers.
 
Currently PGI’s operations are nearly split between consumer and spe­cialty/industrial products, which make up 55% and 45% of sales, respectively. While specialty applications rarely move the high volumes of nonwovens that consumer products do, there are great opportunities in these markets for value added products.
 
One significant development in PGI’s industrial business is the introduction of flame retardant fabrics, which combine proprietary spunlacing technology and advanced finishing science to guide the bedding industry in meeting flammability standards. This new family of fabrics deliver critical benefits including: properly constructed mattresses using the company’s FR fabrics; PGI’s advanced spunlace techniques that create fabrics that do not grin through facing fabrics, allowing them to appear white; and PGI’s  soft and comfortable fabrics with an optimized ratio of weight-to-performance attributes.
 
Operation streamlining has most recently resulted in PGI’s exit from its Turkish joint venture operation with Vateks, in which PGI had participated since 1999. Additionally, in 2003 PGI closed a wetlaid plant in North Little Rock and consolidated its Guntown, MS facility.
 
These closures, combined with other cost-cutting efforts, saved PGI $20 million in 2003 alone, according to executives. “To participate in commodity markets, you need the best prices,” Mr. Schaeffer explained. “You have to be very aggressive in removing all costs and you have to be willing to make some tough choices.” Among these choices have been a series of restructuring plans that have brought PGI’s headcount from a high of 4500 in the late 1990s to less than 3400 today.
 
Now that streamlining is complete and financing is in place, PGI’s next goal is to grow, and executives aren’t being greedy. Staying in sync with industry projections would be fine. This will be achieved largely through long-term partnerships with both customers and suppliers around the world. Sales teams are now focused solely on customer relationships, leaving marketing and product development efforts to others. “We want our sales people to really take the time to know their customers,” Mr. Schaeffer said..
 
One such customer is Johnson & Johnson with which PGI just struck a three-year supply agreement that should generate at least $30 million a year in nonwovens sales. The deal is a major coup for PGI’s consumer products business.
 
Growth will occur organically as PGI relies on its operations around the world to execute another part of its strategic plan—expansion into key markets. One increasingly important area for PGI is Latin America, where 85% of its business is related to hygiene. A second spunmelt line is ramping up in its San Luis Potosi, Mexico facility. Featuring three-beam spunmelt technology, the line produces lightweight materials to satisfy the needs of the hygiene markets in North, South and Central America. In addition to San Luis Potosi, PGI owns facilities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where a new coating line was recently installed, and Cali, Colombia. Much of the output from these facilities serves PGI’s Latin American business, which achieved sales of $109 million in 2003. This business is expected to grow 20% in the short term, thanks largely to the new spunbond line.
 
While Latin American growth is more immediate, Asia is also considered a hot spot by officials. Last year, in an effort to better serve medical and hygiene market needs, PGI moved a production line from Virginia to Nanhai, China and is currently finalizing plans to build a four-beam spunbond line in the country. Much of this capacity will produce high-end materials for China-based medical converters who are shipping products to Europe and the Americas. Hygiene will also continue to be an important part of the business.
 
PGI’s international expansion goals are serious, according to Mr. Norman. “More and more of our customers are looking for international suppliers and we plan to give that to them,” he said.
 
In the short term, PGI will focus on organic growth, but how will a company that made acquisition its calling card for much of the 1990s achieve this? By focusing on the core tenets of its strategic plan, which, so far, have done wonders for the company. “There really hasn’t been one item that stands out as being less or more effective than the others,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “Every one of them has really worked out well and they are all moving along at the same pace.”
Location: N. Charleston, SC

Sales: $845 million

Description: Key Personnel
James Schaeffer, chief executive officer; Willis (Billy) Moore, III, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, vice president & general manager—U.S. Nonwovens; Rolf Altdorf, vice president and managing director—Europe; Fernando Espinosa, vice president and general manager—Latin America; Jay Cheng, vice president and general manager—China. Rick Ferencz, vice president, engineering and development; Bob Dale, vice president, sales and marketing—U.S. nonwovens; Dennis Norman, vice president—strategic planning and communication.

Plants
Landisville, NJ; Rogers, AR; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Neunkirchen, Germany; Cuijk, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Cali, Colombia; Molnlycke, Sweden

ISO Status
Landisville, NC; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA, Nanhai, China, Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Molnlycke, Sweden, Istanbul, Turkey and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, thermal laminated, Apex, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Provira, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, SuperSoft, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Major Markets
Agriculture, apparel, automotive, battery separator, cable wrap, filtration, home furnishings, hygiene, industrial, industrial and marine sorbents, medical, packaging, thermal barriers, wipes for cleanroom, food service and specialty end uses, consumer wipes, household wipes

Continuing its upward trend is PGI Nonwovens, which has been able to significantly grow not only its sales but also its earnings during the past two years, thanks to a company-wide focus on streamlining the business and focusing on core strategies and growth areas. In 2004, the N. Charleston-based company increased its nonwovens sales to $845 million on the heels of increased spunlaced sales in North America and a new line serving hygiene and industrial markets in Mexico. Profits increased 13.4% to $153.5 million.
 
“We have broken into the black and we really feel good about our situation,” said James Schaeffer, chief executive officer. “There are a lot of good things working in our favor.”
 
In March 2003, PGI implemented a multi-pronged strategy to improve its business. Points of this strategy included focusing on four core segments—hygiene, medical, wipes and industrial—growing in certain geographical regions, streamlining manufacturing processes, relying on customer-driven innovation and forming long-term partnerships. Mr. Shaeffer said he has seen a dynamic shift in how this strategy is implemented during the past three years. “In 2003, we focused on stabilizing our business, 2004 started an improvement period and in 2005 we are seeing a growth phase that has just begun,” he said.
 
Vital to this growth is a string of new investments announced during the past several months that span the globe. In September 2004, PGI unveiled plans to double spunbond fabric capacity at its facility in Cali, Colombia to meet growing demand for its products in Latin America, where PGI holds the leading marketshare in the hygiene sector. This new Reifenhauser Reico IV spunbond line will be fully dedicated to the hygiene market, providing high quality fine denier topsheet and other materials for use in diapers. PGI has been operating the Cali site, which currently houses one spunmelt line and one through air bonding line, since 1999, and expects the new line to come onstream by the fourth quarter of 2005.
 
The new line marked the second installed by PGI during the past several months. A similar line came onstream in San Luis, Potosi, Mexico, in late 2003. This new line features three-beam spunmelt technology and produces lightweight materials for hygiene markets in North, South and Central America, according to executives.
 
Meanwhile, in North America PGI is in the process of adding a fourth spunmelt line in Mooresville, NC to meet demand for its products in this region. This line will also be a Reifenhauser Reico IV spunmelt line, specifically designed for enhanced flexibility. It will provide customers with high quality fine denier materials that are softer and lighter than products available from conventional technology and have improved barrier qualities. Additionally, this line will be capable of proprietary processes and will offer advanced treating systems.
 
Looking east, PGI has also stepped up to the plate in China, where this March it implemented two major growth initiatives. The first, a new Suzhou manufacturing plant, will make PGI the largest spunmelt producer in the country as well as China’s only vertically integrated producer of medical fabric. Located near Shanghai, the new plant will house a new state-of-the-art, multi-beam Reifenhauser spunmelt line targeted primarily at serving medical and hygiene markets. It will also house a world-class finishing line capable of providing customers with treated medical fabrics produced in a pristine environment that meet the highest quality standards. Construction was set to begin during the second quarter of 2005 and commercial production is planned for mid 2006.
 
PGI will also expand its technology base at its current facility in Nanhai, China, where it operates one sold-out spunbond and one sold-out spunmelt line, with an advanced chemical bonding line serving hygiene and medical markets. This will allow PGI China to include sublayer products for the hygiene market previously available only in its U.S. and European operations.
 
Upgrades to PGI’s Chinese medical business follow its customers’ movement to China in recent years. In order to better serve these converters, PGI needed to grow operations there, according to Mr. Schaeffer. And, the hygiene market is nearly as big as medical in China, at least for PGI. Offering value-added products to increasingly savvy consumers will only boost PGI’s business there.
 
While Latin America has been PGI’s star growth area in recent years, with sales increasing from $11.2 million in 1994 to $128.9 million last year, China is expected to be the hot spot of tomorrow with growth in excess of 8% during the next five years expected by industry analysts. The company’s two existing Nanhai lines have been sold out for more than two years.
 
The new spunbond lines, in Latin America, the U.S. and China, will largely serve the hygiene market, which is facing a tight spunbond supply due largely to both market growth and the growing amount of nonwovens used per diaper. Another core growth area for PGI is wipes, where the company earmarked 40,000 metric tons of its spunlace and Apex technology in April 2004. In this market, PGI has focused on adding three-dimensionality to wiping substrates in response to converter needs for more sophisticated products, particularly in baby care products. While a great deal of spunlaced capacity is set to come onstream in North America during the next 12 months, PGI executives are not concerned because they feel their capabilities are “head and shoulders” above the rest due to their proprietary Apex technology.
 
Beyond hygiene, wipes and medical, PGI has a strong focus on its industrial business where its products include acoustical headliner materials for automotive uses to concrete fibers and packaging material and furniture and upholstery fabrics to filtration media. Recent advances, in fact, have largely centered on the filtration market where PGI has been applying its Apex technology. Most recently, the company expanded the presence of its Durapex filtration media into industrial baghouse filters for dust removal in humid conditions and high temperatures. Through a strategic relationship with Donaldson Company, use of Durapex has expanded to the newest product offerings in Donaldson’s Dura-Life baghouse line. The two companies joined together a year ago to produce industrial filter bag media that help companies meet new Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards for particulate matter.
 
Other new air media products include oleophobic bags for enhanced cleaning of wet and oily dust in cement, food, agriculture and other industries and an aramid version that provides superior filtration in temperatures up to 400°F for use in furnaces.
 
On the liquid filtration side, PGI has introduced Aquapex, for the pool and spa market where cartridge filters are rapidly replacing sand and diatomaceous earth as the filter of choice.
 
Another recent development in the industrial market includes a family of moldable polyester fabrics to be used as backing material in luxury cars and a family of flame retardant fabrics that meet California fire codes for fire resistant mattresses and other home furnishings.
 
In 2004, PGI focused on building and construction in North and Latin America where the concrete fiber business was a significant source of growth for PGI’s industrial business. The result was increased production and expanded distribution and sales networks as well as the introduction of its own QC technology and automated delivery system to the market. The company also continued to expand production of its Genesis SF Fibers and Strux through a relationship with W.R. Grace. These new product introductions were key to growth in construction and roofing membranes but existing products such as PGI’s housewrap lines also experienced strong volume growth throughout Canada, the U.S. and Mexico where they continued to gain overall marketshare.
 
In Europe, PGI’s Geca-Tapes unit, whose products include state-of-the-art nonwoven water blocking tapes and yarns and separating tapes, focused on developing clear relationships with key players. Leveraging strong customer relationships, this unit introduced a number of new products, leading directly to a strengthened market position. In 2005, its focus will be on extending its product range.
 
And, in Latin America, the company has developed its agricultural markets with its proprietary Agribon and Agriban crop covers targeting Latin American growers. These products allow improved crop yields without the need for pesticides.
 
“We have made a broad-based initiative in this segment and there is a good pipeline of products underway,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “We have really focused on the engineered solution side of things as well as on emerging trends.”
Location: Charlotte, NC

Sales: $948 million

Description: Key Personnel
James Schaeffer, chief executive officer; Willis (Billy) Moore, III, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, vice president and general manager—U.S. Nonwovens; Fernando Espinosa, vice president and general manager—Latin America; Jay Cheng, vice president and general manager—China; Bill Spencer, vice president general manager—Canada;  Rick Ferencz, vice president, engineering and development; Bob Dale, vice president, sales and marketing—U.S. nonwovens and Dennis Norman, vice president—strategic planning and communication

Plants
Landisville, NJ; Rogers, AR; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, Oregan; Clearfield, Utah; Guntown, Mississippi; Kingman, Kansas; Magog, Quebec; North Bay, Ontario; Neunkirchen, Germany; Cuijk, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia; Molnlycke, Sweden

ISO Status
Landisville, NC; Rogers, AR; Vineland, NJ; Benson, NC; Gainesville, GA; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA, Nanhai, China, Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Molnlycke, Sweden and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Quat-Safe, Provira, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, SuperSoft, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Major Markets
Agriculture, apparel, automotive, battery separator, flame retardant materials, cable wrap, filtration, home furnishings, hygiene, industrial, industrial and marine sorbents, medical, packaging, thermal barriers, wipes for cleanroom, food service and specialty end uses, consumer wipes, household wipes

Continuing its streak of success has been PGI Nonwovens. Among the highlights of this diversified roll goods producer during the past 12 months are the start up of a new line in Mooresville, NC, the relocation of its corporate headquarters from Charleston, SC to Charlotte, NC and continued investment in its Latin American and Chinese businesses.
 
In 2005, PGI achieved sales of $948 million, continuing an upward trend begun three years ago when sales clocked in between $750-$780 million, and the company is on track to top $1 billion as new machines in North Carolina, Latin America and Asia come onstream and start contributing to the bottom line. “Our growth last year does not even reflect upcoming investments,” explained CEO James Schaeffer. “The new line in Mexico is included into this but most of it was attributable to increased sales off of existing lines from new programs and new products. We grew our sales the old fashioned way. We earned it.”
 
Among the company’s recent initiatives was the establishment of a new corporate headquarters in Charlotte. Located in Charlotte’s Harris Corners Business Park, the headquarters brings together about 100 employees in senior leadership, finance, purchasing, human resources, sales, customer service, information technology and other administrative positions. PGI relocated employees from the former headquarters in North Charleston and offices in Mooresville and Raleigh, NC and Dayton, NJ to establish the centralized location. The Charlotte office puts the company closer to its customers and manufacturing operations and aims to increase operational efficiencies and foster greater collaboration across the company.
 
With a new headquarters in place, PGI is poised to continue the steady growth stream started three years ago. Growth will largely be achieved through a string of new lines that came onstream in early 2006. In the U.S., PGI held a ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the completion of a fourth spunmelt line in Mooresville, NC to meet demand for products in this region. The line, a Reifenhauser Reico IV spunmelt line, is specifically designed for enhanced flexibility. It can make high quality, fine denier materials that are softer and lighter than products available from conventional technology and have improved barrier properties.
 
Also new to PGI’s spunmelt business is a line in a new plant in Suzhou, China, which is currently ramping up to make PGI China’s largest spunmelt maker as well as the country’s only vertically integrated producer of finished medical fabrics. Located near Shanghai, the new plant contains a multi-beam Reifenhauser spunmelt line, targeting medical and hygiene applications, as well as a finishing line capable of making treated medical fabrics that meet the highest quality standards. Creating this operation, according to PGI executives, was the result of its medical converter customers’ movement into Asia.
 
PGI has also expanded its technology base at its current facility in Nanhai, China, where it operates one sold-out spunbond and one sold-out spunmelt line, with an advanced chemical bonding line serving hygiene and medical markets. This allows PGI China to make sublayer products for the hygiene market previously available only in its U.S. and European operations.
 
“The Asian market is getting more sophisticated,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “We like the fact that a good percentage of our products that we make there are staying there. Some come back as finished medical products but the lion’s share is intended to be consumed in Asia.”
 
And to give its Asian business a cohesive structure, PGI this year established an Asian headquarters near the Suzhou site, bringing its manufacturing plant together with administrative functions under one roof. “The new Asian headquarters will facilitate greater collaboration and cooperation among our teams, and also puts the leadership for the Asian business in the same location as our newest manufacturing site,” said Jay Cheng, vice president and general manager, PGI Asia.
 
Finance operations, headed by PGI Asia’s new financial director Z.Q. Zhan, as well as information technology, sales and marketing and administrative support, will also be based at this office in the growing Shanghai region.
 
Meanwhile, Latin America, which has been a strong growth area for PGI for some time, is home to the company’s most recently announced investment—a new spunmelt line at the Dominion Nonwovens Sudamerica (DNS) joint venture facility in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The new wide-width, multi-beam spunmelt line will more than double the capacity of the joint venture facility to meet growing demand for its products in South America and to better serve its customers in the region. It will produce more than 15,000 metric tons of nonwovens when it comes onstream in late 2007.
 
The new line is intended to be fully dedicated to the hygiene market, providing high-quality fine denier topsheet material and other substrates for use in diapers. The addition of this line gives the company’s DNS operation the ability to produce material that will satisfy the highest hygiene standards in the industry. The expanded capacity will also be used with DNS’s coating capabilities to provide even more value-added products, such as cloth-like backsheet.  This investment follows similar growth strategies across PGI’s Latin American business. News lines have come onstream in Cali, Colombia in early 2005, which doubled capacity at the site, and in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 2004. In Cali, the new Reifenhauser line is fully dedicated to the hygiene market, providing high quality, fine denier topsheet material for diapers, while in Mexico, a new three-beam spunbond line produces lightweight materials for hygiene markets throughout the Americas.
 
“Latin America is a very important piece of our total business,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “It is consistent with our mission of having the right products at the right price anywhere in the world. Our customer base continues to grow at a very good rate throughout Latin America, and we have a really good manufacturing footprint. We are continuing to expand that.”
 
And, while spunmelt technology been the focus of much investment for PGI of late, the company maintains its commitment to be a total solution provider to the nonwovens industry.
 
“A lot of people think we only do spunmelt in these areas, but we have a carded operation in Cali and chemical bond products in China,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “Our drive is to be a full service provider of nonwovens and engineered products.”
 
Also contributing to PGI’s full range of services is its patented Apex spunlace technology, which has allowed the company to target a number of interesting markets. With more than 40,000 tons of the material earmarked for wipes, certainly this has become an interesting market for PGI but the company has shied away from commodity areas and instead has focused on areas where Apex’s imaging technology is valued. “There is a real array of different materials in the wipes market,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “We are seeing a number of different shapes and feels.”
 
One good example is the development of cotton-containing baby wipes by PGI and wipes converter NicePak for retail giant Costco, which have not only proven successful at retail but has opened a new category in the baby wipes market. “Just as we anticipated, we are leading the way with some new applications and new products with Apex,” Mr. Schaeffer continued.  
 
Beyond wipes, Apex has allowed PGI entry into markets including automotives, carpet backing and filtration. In filtration, PGI’s Durapex line of media now contains oleophobic aramid and conductive variations, thanks to a strategic relationship with Donaldson Co. These new products are suited for dust removal in humid conditions, high temperatures and manufacturing environments where dust may be explosive.
 
“One of the things about Apex is that we are really incorporating it into a number of different applications,” said Dennis Norman, vice president, strategic planning and communication. “There are a number of different ways we have been able to leverage Apex to create a real value-added, differentiating product.
 
And, while hygiene and medical and wipes continue to be an important part of PGI’s growth strategy, so do industrial areas like flame retardant fabrics for mattress applications and automotive products, filtration and construction.”
 
PGI’s growth in these areas has helped offset market maturity in certain regions of the hygiene market. “Hygiene in emerging regions is growing very quickly but hygiene in general in the U.S. is not growing as fast as industrial. By playing in industrial, we have great diversity,” Mr. Norman said.  
 
“The great potential for industrial is in organic growth,” he added. “We are growing just by entering new markets because we are starting at zero.”
 
With plants throughout the world, PGI’s expansion strategy has largely centered around new lines but major investment in Europe has clearly been missing as PGI’s capital expansion has taken place in the Americas and Asia. PGI executives would not specify their plans for Europe, but alluded to future growth plans to be implemented at the right time and stressed that the European leg of its business continues to be important to its position as a global supplier of nonwovens.
 
“I think you will see with PGI a consistent theme for growth yet it will be growing strong, growing smart,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “We are not just going to grow for the sake of growing. This industry offers great growth potential. We believe we have the capability to be the industry leader instead of an industry leader.”
Location: Charlotte, NC

Sales: $1.02 billion

Description: Key Personnel
Veronica  Hagen, chief executive officer; Willis (Billy) Moore, III, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, chief operating officer; Bob Dale, vice president of research and development; Fernando Espinosa, senior vice president and general manager, Europe; Rolando Dominguez, vice president, general manager, Latin America; Bill Spencer, vice president, general manager, Canada; Greg Crawford, vice president, general manager, U.S.; Rick Ferencz, vice president, engineering; Dennis Norman, vice president, strategic planning and communication

Plants
Landisville, NJ; Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, Oregan; Clearfield, Utah; Guntown, Mississippi; Kingman, Kansas; Magog, Quebec; North Bay, Ontario; Cuijk, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia

ISO Status
Landisville, NJ; Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Nanhai, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Quat-Safe, Provira, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, SuperSoft, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Sales topped the $1 billion mark for the first time for Polymer Group Inc. in 2006 as the company felt the benefits of several new capacity expansions throughout the world. Key highlights of the year include the start up of new spunbond lines in Cali, Colombia; Mooresville, NC; and Suzhou, China, as well as a new chemical bonding line in Nanhai, China; the relocation of corporate headquarters from North Charleston, SC to Charlotte, NC; and the finalization of plans to add a new spunbond line in Argentina.
 
And, PGI has continued strong into 2007 with new CEO Veronica Hagen firmly in place, a North American restructuring plan underway and a brand new nonwovens technology set to increase its role in the wipes market.
 
“PGI is a growth corporation with a global footprint,” said Ms. Hagen. “The company is already culturally innovative in itself so there is a really good platform on which to grow. PGI is doing an extremely good job of being in the right places with the right technologies.”
 
Ms. Hagen joined PGI in April, six months after former CEO James Schaeffer was asked to resign as a result of an internal investigation by the company’s audit committee. Since 2004, Ms. Hagen had held the position of president and chief executive officer of Sappi Fine Paper North America, a $1.4 billion division of the South African-based global leader in the pulp and paper industry, Sappi Limited. “As the nominating committee began its search  for a new CEO, our primary goal was to identify candidates with a high level of stature and leadership. Flowing from that criterion was the desire for someone with a record of success, strong industrial experience in a global marketplace and a strong focus on the customer,” said William Hewitt, PGI’s chairman who served as interim CEO during the search process.
 
“Ronee Hagen meets all of those qualifications and joins PGI with an outstanding record of performance and expertise in capital-intensive industrial markets. She has demonstrated the ability to grow profitability in some very tough businesses and has done so with a customer-centric focus. We are confident these characteristics make her the perfect person to lead PGI into its next phase of growth, profitability and success,” Mr. Hewitt continued.
 
Ms. Hagen’s chief goal is to keep PGI on the same path of growth and innovation it has been on for the past five years. “We will optimize our current footprint and look at new areas to move into,” she said.
 
In other organizational changes, PGI named two veteran executives to the newly created global positions of chief operating officer and vice president of research and development in July.  Mike Hale, who has been with the company for 35 years, has been named COO, managing operations for all of PGI's regional businesses in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Canada and Asia. He most recently was vice president and general manager for U.S. and Europe. Bob Dale, with PGI for 16 years, has been tapped as vice president of research and development and is leading the company's R&D activities and customer-focused innovation strategies taking place around the world. He previously was vice president of sales and marketing for U.S. Nonwovens. The company also established a new position of vice president of global marketing, with responsibility for global coordination of the company's marketing initiatives, and PGI is actively in the process of filling this executive leadership role. Additionally, PGI named company veteran Fernando Espinosa to the position of senior vice president and general manager, Europe reporting to the COO.
 
The new organizational structure is expected to help prepare PGI for future growth. Part of this growth is expected to occur through the introduction of its new Spinlace nonwovens, launching a new category of fabrics that deliver high performance at best value pricing and represent the first in a new generation of nonwovens technologies that will be the cornerstone for future product development, according to executives. Spinlace is made on an efficient manufacturing process that incorporates continuous filament technology with hydroentanglement to eliminate the carding step necessary in traditional spunlace production, according to executives. Spinlace also uses PGI’s proprietary Apex imaging technology to impart unique three-dimensional images directly on the fabric.
 
In announcing the new technology at the IDEA07 trade exhibition, Mr. Hale called Spinlace a first step in developing a more efficient and dynamic method of incorporating continuous filament materials to achieve a variety of product attributes by looking to change the way nonwovens are made. “We consider our current commercial initiatives to produce Spinlace materials as only the beginning of our efforts to develop a more efficient and dynamic method of incorporating continuous filament materials to achieve a variety of product attributes including softness, strength, elasticity, bulk and more.”
 
During phase one of Spinlace’s commercialization, PGI will mainly target the North American wipes market where it will compete against standard spunlace installations. Phase two will focus on commercialization in the global wipes market as well as into new market areas. Beyond that, attention will be paid to new raw materials.
 
Spinlace fabrics, and the process used to make them, can result in stronger, more absorbent materials than comparable materials at lower weights and with a better value proposition than traditional manufacturing methods. PGI has invested in the upgrade of a commercial line, as well as a pilot line, for continuous research and development efforts. The first line will be located in Benson, NC and is expected to be commercial during the second half of 2007.
 
Amidst this major launch, PGI continues to remain committed to traditional nonwovens technologies, particularly spunmelt nonwovens. In fact, the company secured its place as a major global supplier of the material last month when it said it would add a 15,000-ton spunmelt line in North America to serve hygiene customers in the U.S. and Mexico. Also under construction is a new Reifenhauser Reicofil line at its DNS facility near Buenos Aires, Argentina. This wide-width, multi-beam line will more than double the capacity of the Argentina location responding to customers’ needs for PGI’s products in the South American region. The new line is expected to come onstream in late 2007.
 
These lines are the latest in a string of several new spunmelt lines added by PGI since 2005. Other installations include a fourth spunmelt line in Mooresville, NC, which came onstream in early 2006 to help meet demand for products in North America. Also new to PGI’s business is a new spunmelt line in Suzhou, China, which began contributing to the topline growth during the fourth quarter of 2006. Located near Shanghai, this new line targets medical and hygiene applications as well as a finishing line capable of making related medical fabrics. And, in the fourth quarter of 2005, PGI added a second spunmelt line to its facility in Cali, Colombia, more than doubling this plant’s output.
 
According to Dennis Norman, vice president, strategic planning and communication, these new lines contributed to 2006’s growth and are expected to help continue this growth pattern for 2007.
 
These gains were able to recoup softness felt in PGI’s Canadian division during 2006 caused by foreign competition in the housewrap business, brought on largely by increased polyethylene prices following Hurricane Katrina in late 2005. However, the company feels this market is now back on track to grow—albeit from a smaller base—on the heels of new product introductions.
 
New product introductions are also boosting PGI’s involvement in the automotive market. This spring, the company introduced new substrates for moldable automotive components made from recyclable materials that improve acoustics in vehicles. Used in trunk and wheel well liners, the substrates made from recyclable polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate provide a barrier to absorb sound and reduce noise in the interior compartment of a vehicle by 25-30%. PGI developed a unique one-step manufacturing process that combines the recycled materials with a top virgin-facing material, integrating both through layering and needlepunching. This one-step process, combined with the use of recyclable materials, produces a more cost-effective product.
 
Also new to PGI’s product lineup is MediSoft Ultra, an advanced high-performance fabric for medical garments and other single-use apparel. New capabilities at PGI’s recently opened state-of-the-art plant in Suzhou, China and proprietary advances in PGI’s spunmelt manufacturing process enable the company to achieve the higher barrier protection, greater comfort and enhanced softness that the market is seeking.
 
Also expected to boost PGI’s business is the new Consumer Product Safety Commission mattress flammability standards, which went into effect July 1.
 
PGI has developed a high-performance, antiflammable fabric and has partnered with Hanes Industries, a leading distributor to the home furnishings industry, to distribute this fabric as a facing material on the bottom of no-flip mattresses under Hanes’ brand name, Stratus. Stratus fabric acts as a FR facing material so an additional fabric layer is not needed in the mattress construction. It is made with PGI’s proprietary Apex technology that produces stronger and heavier fabrics with enhanced tear and abrasion resistance when compared to traditional alternative materials. This technology also allows three-dimensional images to be imparted directly into the fabric for improved performance.
 
“With more than 22 million mattresses sold nationwide, the new federal bed safety standards have created a tremendous opportunity for the nonwovens industry unlike any other we’ve seen in the past,” said Rick Pearce, senior director of PGI. “We are offering a high-performance FR product that assures quality and helps mattress manufacturers of all sizes meet the new regulations. Through our supply chain partnership with Hanes, we are able to deliver FR fabrics to the market in the quickest and most efficient manner, meeting this real-time need.”
Location: CHARLOTTE, NC

Sales: $1.06 billion

Description: Key Personnel
Veronica  Hagen, chief executive officer; Robert Kocourek, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, chief operating officer; Bob Dale, vice president of research and development; Jonathan Bourget, senior vice president and general manager, Europe; Rolando Dominguez, vice president, general manager, Latin America; Bill Spencer, vice president, general manager, Canada; Greg Crawford, vice president, general manager, U.S.; Rick Ferencz, vice president, engineering; John Heironimus, vice president and chief marketing officer; Dennis Norman, vice president, strategic planning and communication

Plants
Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, OR; Clearfield, UT; Guntown, MS; Kingman, KS; Magog, Quebec; North Bay, Ontario; Cuijk, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia

ISO Status
Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Nanhai, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Quat-Safe, Provira, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, SuperSoft, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Sales increased 3.7% to $1.06 billion for Polymer Group Inc. The Charlotte, NC-based producer attributed growth in the nonwovens segment as the primary progress for growth. Nonwovens sales increased to $885.7 million driven largely by the ramp-up of the new Suzhou, China operation as well as increases in the Latin America region due to assets installed in 2006 and new assets in North America.
 
During the past several years, the company has added new spunmelt lines in North Carolina, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and China as well as a finishing line capable of treating medical fabrics in China. As these lines continuously contribute to top line growth, PGI is also underway with a new spunmelt line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
 
According to PGI executives, recent growth in Latin America has been between 8-12% a year and all of PGI’s lines there are currently operating at sold-out capacity. In the last few years, investment in the area has been a key priority for PGI, but that is not where the company’s focus ends.
 
“There are a lot of opportunities for growth in the nonwovens business,” said CEO Veronica Hagen. “What you have to get right is the timing—taking into account the actual time of investment. We will continue to invest where we get the best return on our money.”
 
PGI’s goal of being a global leader in the hygiene and medical markets will be achieved by focusing on sustainable development, examining which markets make the most sense for investment. In the long-term, PGI is looking at its structure from a market-based approach, not from a technology stand-point. This is illustrated through the company’s newly redesigned website, which breaks its business into four key segments—hygiene, medical, wipes and industrial.
 
In hygiene, PGI’s series of investments during the past five years has secured its place as the world’s largest spunmelt maker. When its latest investment, the Reicofil line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, comes on stream, the new line will allow it to produce high-barrier materials for hygiene and medical applications to meet growing demand from customers in North America and increase capacity by approximately 15,000 metric tons.
 
The line has been described as a state-of-the-art, multi-beam spunmelt line, which will feature the latest technology and produce high-quality, lightweight, strong fabrics that are used in fine denier backsheet, leg cuffs and materials that go into other parts of diapers, as well as fabrics that provide high-barrier protection and comfort for medical garments.
 
In addition to serving customers in Mexico and the U.S., this new line—like similar investments in the region—also is a gateway for PGI to supply its products to Central America and the Caribbean. The new line is expected to begin production by mid-2009.
 
Meanwhile, in China, PGI’s medical business continues to benefit from the Suzhou expansion. In addition to a new spunmelt line in Suzhou, China, which began contributing to the topline growth during the fourth quarter of 2006, PGI is operating a finishing line capable of making related medical fabrics there. This investment reportedly follows a migration of the medical converting to China.
 
Benefiting PGI’s wipes business is its new Spinlace material, which was launched in April 2007, as a new category of fabrics delivering high performance and best value pricing. The Spinlace process provides added strength, absorbency, texturing and other performance characteristics that enhance cleaning in the wipes.    
 
The Clorox Company has restaged its disinfectant line containing Spinlace technology. The upgraded product  is being billed as thicker and more textured, characteristics that PGI’s proprietary Apex imaging technology can enable while delivering better cleaning based on comparison testing.  
 
PGI developed Spinlace fabrics to bridge the gap between value and performance in wipes. Using a more efficient process that eliminates carded manufacturing steps, PGI is combining continuous filament, pulp and its proprietary Apex imaging technology to achieve the performance attributes customers want at competitive prices. PGI can custom design attributes from softness to strength and liquid dispersibility right into its material at lower weights to meet customers’ requests.
 
PGI began making the Spinlace on a pilot operation in April 2007 and then moved to a commercial line in October. Since then, the product has been successful and in April 2008, the company said it would start exporting it into Europe, a region historically seen as a growth spot for PGI, who has kept investment there minimal recently.
 
PGI’s final division, industrial, contains a number of smaller markets. In protective apparel, PGI has introduced an expanded family of protective apparel fabrics and converted garments that deliver enhanced safety and greater comfort for workers wearing them on the job. The new line-up includes coated and laminated fabrics with high-barrier properties and finishes to protect workers against fire, dangerous air particulates, toxic chemicals, blood transfer and other hazards. These durable materials have been designed to withstand the toughest jobs, including toxic site clean- up, emergency response, cleanroom and general industrial uses.
 
The new offerings range from lightweight polypropylene for general purpose uses to higher-performance coated, laminated and flame retardant (FR) materials for a range of needs. These breathable and durable materials are resistant to toxic chemicals and surface resistivity, and meet ASTM, antistatic and other requirements.
 
Meanwhile, in automotives, PGI is expanding the use of its environmentally-friendly acoustic materials into other vehicle components. Designed to silence interior vehicle noise, Silonyx materials are being used in production vehicles by General Motors, Ford and Honda, including North America’s best selling Chevy Malibu as well as the Ford Focus and Honda Civic models.
 
Initially introduced in trunk and wheel-well liners, Silonyx is being expanded into package trays, hush panels, dash insulators and HVAC ducts. PGI also has enhanced the product offerings in highly engineered wheel-well liners with Silonyx 4, a new four-layer product manufactured in a single-step process.
 
These substrates made from recyclable polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) provide a barrier to absorb sound and reduce noise in the interior compartment of a vehicle. In addition, the components themselves are recyclable.
 
As it focuses on growth across its four major divisions, PGI has also had to grapple with raw material price increases across all of its businesses, most recently announcing a price increase across all of its product lines in early July.

“From a historical basis, we have had good luck passing on raw material prices but there has always  been a lag. It used to not matter because prices fluctuated up and down but now they are just going up so it’s become more difficult,” Ms. Hagen said.” PGI has combated raw material prices by eliminating waste throughout the manufacturing process and other efficiency measures, but price increases have been inevitable.
 
Additionally, PGI has worked to streamline its business through a number of plant shutdowns and line moves. Most recently, PGI said it would close its Landisville, NJ facility, where it manufactures carded thermal bond and chemical bond materials for hygiene and medical applications, by the third quarter. Certain product lines are expected to be transitioned to other facilities within the U.S. operations while others will be discontinued. The company will provide the approximately 85 affected workers with severance and displacement assistance.
 
The closure follows similar measures announced last year. In June, PGI said it would close its Neunkirchen, Germany plant and transfer portions of the business to the company’s plant in Cuijk, The Netherlands, while in Jan­uary, PGI closed its Rogers, AR and Gainesville, GA facilities.
Location: CHARLOTTE, NC


Sales: $1.15 billion


Description: Key Personnel
Veronica Hagen, chief executive officer; Robert Kocourek, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, chief operating officer; Bob Dale, vice president of research and development; Jonathan Bourget, senior vice president and general manager, Europe; Rolando Dominguez, vice president, general manager, Latin America; Daniel Guerrero, vice president and general manager, U.S.; Richard Gillespie, vice president and general manager, Canada; Wuling Zhang, vice president and general manager, Asia; Charlie Saine, vice president, global procurement; John Heironimus, vice president and chief marketing officer and chief sustainability officer; Dennis Norman, vice president, strategy and corporate development

Plants
Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, OR; Clearfield, UT; Guntown, MS; Kingman, KS; Magog, Quebec; North Bay, Ontario; Cuijk, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia

ISO Status
Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Nanhai, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film

laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names
Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Quat-Safe, Provia, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, SuperSoft, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Despite the tough global economic climate, nonwovens producer PGI ended 2008 a much stronger company than it was a year-anda- half ago with sales at a record high, according to Veronica (Ronee) Hagen, chief executive officer.

“These are the toughest economic conditions I’ve ever seen,” said Ms. Hagen. “The challenges have us doing business in a cognitive fog. We don’t have a lot of the information we used to rely on when we wanted to make decisions— there is so much volatility in terms of raw materials, global demand and currency fluctuations.”

Against this difficult backdrop, Ms. Hagen is proud to say that PGI is stronger than it was 18 months ago and well positioned for what will likely be an extended tough economic situation. This is partly credited to PGI’s good business sense but the defensive nature of the hygiene market has also played a role.

Currently, PGI’s nonwovens business is split between twothirds single-use sales—hygiene, wipes and medical applications —and one-third industrial markets.

“We are pleased we are in a non-cyclical business,” Ms. Hagen said. “Two-thirds of our business is single-use and that’s been a positive thing for us. We have a diversified market portfolio in our businesses and this extends globally. We don’t have too much exposure to any one region or market.”

Sales were up 8.1% for PGI in 2008, a trend not expected to continue this year primarily due to lower selling prices resulting from lower raw material costs. Additionally, the company expects declines in its industrial business volumes, namely U.S. automotive products and construction, to not be offset by gains in its disposables business.

“We don’t expect the same level of growth in 2009 because it would require higher raw material prices in our disposables businesses, which is not expected,” said Dennis Norman, vice president of strategy and corporate development. “Industrial is also going to be off considerably.”

In addition to higher raw material prices, PGI’s nonwovens sales were boosted last year by the continued ramp-up of a new line in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the continued roll out of its Spinlace continuous filament technology and some new industrial applications. More recently PGI’s sales have been benefitting from the completion of a state-of-the-art spunbond line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which came onstream in May ahead of schedule.

The $50 million plant expansion increased PGI’s capacity by approximately 15,000 metric tons to meet ongoing demand for the company’s nonwoven materials used in hygiene and disposable medical applications. PGI’s new Reifenhauser Reicofil 4 line features the latest technology and produces high quality, lightweight, strong fabrics for use in fine denier barrier materials used in diapers and medical garments. In addition to serving customers in Mexico and the U.S., the new line is also a gateway for PGI to supply its products to Central America and the Caribbean.

These new lines have secured PGI’s role as the world’s largest manufacturer of spunmelt nonwovens in the Americas. With capacity spread out between North Carolina, Virginia, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, PGI has a sizable hygiene business, serving multinational and private label diaper and hygiene manufacturers. Mr. Norman said he characterizes the North American hygiene market as healthy, for now. “If all of the new lines previously announced come in, the industry could start seeing some problems with overcapacity,” he said.

Outside of North America, PGI has a large spunmelt line as well as a medical gown converting operation in China, which has contributed to the company’s leadership position in the Chinese medical gown market.

“In 2008, we were able to leapfrog into a number one position in all of the (medical) markets we participate in,” said Mr. Norman. “These include gowns and drapes, head covers and shoe covers. The medical market has an existing supply chain and the fact that we are in China and that we are vertically integrated gives us the ability to deliver.”

According to Ms. Hagen, cost effectiveness and flexibility has allowed spunmelt to dominate many markets and this is why the company has invested so heavily in the technology during the past couple of years. “Markets tend to migrate to the best technology. Spunmelt is a very cost-effective technology and it would be great if it could satisfy all of the market needs. Right now it can’t, but Spinlace is a good example of how this technology is expanding to meet new market needs,” she said.

By Spinlace, Ms. Hagen is referring to the company’s continuous filament technology, which was launched in April 2007 and is already being used by multinational wipes manufacturers including a major consumer goods manufacturer that chose the material for its disinfectant wipes relaunch last year. The Spinlace process provides added strength, absorbency, texturizing and other performance characteristics that enhance the cleaning in the wipes.

PGI created Spinlace to bridge the gap between value and performance in wipes. By eliminating the carded manufacturing steps, PGI is combining continuous filament, pulp and its proprietary Apex imaging technology to achieve the performance attributes customers want at competitive prices.

“Wipes is a good example of a market where value has eroded,” said Cliff Bridges, global marketing and HR communications director. “The cost everyone was willing to pay came down creating a gap between performance and price. Spinlace helped bridge this gap by offering superior performance in a more efficient manner.”

In addition to these expansions, PGI has focused on streamlining its business, exiting businesses that strategically don’t make sense, and consolidating plants and machinery to improve its cost performance. The latest of these efforts came in June when the company announced a plan to close its North Little Rock, AR facility by early next year — making the site the fourth PGI site to close in three years. Under the plan, PGI will consolidate certain manufacturing operations into its Benson, NC plant and phase out operations of its North Little Rock facility by the end of March 2010 and relocate portions of its hydroentanglement and fusible fiber businesses to increase efficiency, reduce costs and maintain its high quality levels. These activities will involve upgrading the capabilities of both the hydroentanglement and fusible fiber manufacturing bases at PGI in order to meet developing market needs through capitalization of inhouse intellectual properties.

According to Mr. Bridges, this facility was very industrial-oriented and as such was hit quite hard by the economic crisis. “It is well aligned with our Benson operation so it made sense to shut it down when we were looking at streamlining,” he said.

PGI closed sites in Rogers, AR and Gainesville, GA in 2007 and in Landisville, NJ in mid-2008.

PGI is also reexamining its business portfolio to consider what businesses continue to make sense for it in this new economy. Despite the fact it had invested in its automotives business in the U.S. as recently as 2008, earlier this year, PGI made the decision to exit the automotives market—except for its business in the automotive wipes category. “Volume in the industry was cut in half and our business model just didn’t make sense any more,” Mr. Bridges explained. “There would have to be a really compelling argument for us to re-enter that market. We are now selling the assets we used to make those products.”

Also hurting has been the construction market, particularly the housewrap segment, but bedding, particularly in the FR arena, continues to perform well as does filtration, where PGI’s presence is small but competitive in certain niche markets.

Moving forward, PGI sees great opportunity to partner more closely with its customers and create greater value through its sustainability initiatives.

“We are committed to achieving leadership in sustainability in our industry,” Ms. Hagen said. “We see this as not only an essential matter of corporate responsibility, but also an important area of collaboration with our key customers and suppliers. Our commitment to sustainability is a reflection of our values and integral part of the PGI brand. The world’s leading companies have embraced the sustainability challenge as a core operating principle and PGI will be no exception as a leading global nonwovens company.”
Description: 

Key Personnel

Veronica  Hagen, chief executive officer; Mike Hale, chief operating officer;  Dennis Norman, chief financial officer; Dan Rikard, svp, general counsel, and secretary;  Bob Dale, senior vice president of research and development; John Heironimus, senior vice president, chief marketing officer and chief sustainability officer; Mary Tomasello, senior vice president of human resources and information technology; Charles Saine, senior vice president of procurement; Scott Tracey, vice president and general manager, Europe; Rolando Dominguez, vice president, general manager, Latin America;  Richard Gillespie, vice president, general manager, Canada; Daniel Guerrero, vice president, general manager, U.S.; Wuling Zhang, vice president and general manager, Asia

Plants

Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, OR; Magog, Quebec; North Bay, Ontario; Cuijk, The Netherlands; Bailleul, France; Tarragona, Spain; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cali, Colombia; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China.

Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR;

Processes

Spunbonded, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, hydroentanglement, and other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names

APEX, Agribon, Chicopee, Boxer, Chifonet, Chux, Durapex, Fresh Guy, J-Cloth, Lavette, Masslinn, Medisoft, Morana, Quix, Poly Breathe, Polysafe, Stretch’N Dust, Sur-prep, Spinlace, Ultraloft 

Recent highlights for PGI include finalizing plans for new lines in Asia and North America, a large-scale European acquisition and continued headway in sustainability efforts. The company continues to expand its scope in the global spunmelt market while also participating in a number of industrial areas.

As expected, sales dropped slightly in 2009 to $882.7 million compared to $1.07 billion in 2008 as raw material price decreases drove down prices on the spunmelt side and economic softness led to lower volumes in industrial segments. However, profits fared much better than expected for the year with adjustable EBITDA increasing 12% to $124.4 million and net income more than tripling to $18.2 million.

“In 2009, we began to prove out the value of our global business model and the resiliency of our consumer disposables business,” said CEO  Veronica “Ronee” Hagen. “In a year when many companies were suffering, our profits improved. Also, during 2009, we sharpened our strategic focus.” 

Through a strategic planning focus, PGI developed a complete set of goals and objectives focused on its markets and functions and the company is now committed to continuing to achieve business excellence in 2010 and beyond in every area, from sales and marketing and research and development, to procurement, sourcing and global supply and delivering the best total value to customers.

Among the various alternatives being evaluated to sustain PGI’s global leadership is the potential sale of the company. In April, the company’s board of directors established a special committee comprised of independent directors to evaluate strategic alternatives to unlock shareholder value.  The company has retained Blackstone Advisory Partners LP—who is also rumored to be a potential suitor for the company—as its financial advisor and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP as its legal advisor to assist in its evaluation. The special committee has retained Janney Montgomery Scott LLC as its financial advisor and Richard, Layton & Finger as its legal advisor to assist in its evaluation.

“The timing for this process is ongoing but during the review we have conducted business as usual for PGI and all of its stakeholders and will continue to do so,” Ms. Hagen said.

And, for PGI the past couple of years business as usual has meant investment, particularly in spunmelt technology, and the last 12 months have been no exception. In December, the company said it would invest in two spunmelt lines globally, one in the U.S. and one in China.  In the U.S., the company said it would invest $65 million to expand its Waynesboro, VA facility. The investment—which was initiated in the second quarter of 2010— will include the use of proprietary technology to establish a new manufacturing line and increase production as well as the expansion of the current building in order to accommodate the new line. The project will also create 41 new jobs. 

PGI currently operates two spunmelt facilities in the U.S.—one in Waynesboro and one in Mooresville, NC. “Both (facilities) were considered for this investment,” Ms. Hagen said. “Each facility delivers consistently outstanding results because of the talent and dedication of our employees at these locations. This made the decision of where to locate the new asset very difficult.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with both the City of Waynesboro and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership to secure the project for Virginia. Delegate Steve Landes also assisted with the project. Governor McDonnell approved a $750,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist Waynesboro with the project. Governor McDonnell also approved $750,000 in a performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) program, an incentive available to existing Virginia companies. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide new job training assistance through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

The new line will serve the North American hygiene market, which is currently being fed through lines in Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, which have all seen investment in recent years. The latest of these is a state-of-the-art spunbond line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which came onstream in May 2010 and is meeting high quality hygiene and medical demand in both Mexico and the U.S.

One global area where, up to recently, PGI has not been present in spunmelt in Europe, but the company changed that in a big way last year when it acquired Barcelona, Spain-based Tesalca-Texnovo nonwovens businesses from Grupo Corinpa. The business—PGI’s first European spunmelt operation—is operating as a new wholly owned subsidiary (PGI Spain). The acquisition furthered PGI’s strategy of strengthening its position as the global leader in the hygiene market by increasing its presence in Europe, the world’s largest volume market, and bringing it into new markets in Western Europe and Northern Africa where Tesalca-Texnovo has a strong customer base. 

Texnovo was founded in 1989 as a family-owned private business focused on the industrial segments and the Tesalca business operations were added a decade later to supply the hygiene and medical segments. Tesalca-Texnovo is the only organization that manufactures spunbond polypropylene nonwoven materials in Spain and is a leader in the European market.

The Tesalca-Texnovo operations are headquartered in Barcelona and operate two plants in Tarragona, Spain on the same property, with six Reifenhauser Reicofil lines serving the hygiene, medical and industrial/agricultural segments.

“With this acquisition, PGI now has a strong position in spunbond/spunmelt technology in the four major regions of the world, allowing us to serve our existing global hygiene and medical customers while allowing us to add valuable new customers,” Ms. Hagen said. “We are very pleased with the performance of PGI Spain as it has become integrated into PGI processes and systems.”

Also increasing in importance to PGI is its Asian spunmelt operation, which includes a large spunmelt line as well as a converting facility for the conversion of medical garments in Suzhou, and the company has already announced it will add to its Chinese output sometime this year.  “We have announced an expansion in the People’s Republic of China where the market is very strong for our products and services, particularly in healthcare and hygiene where there is a hub of conversion of medical garments and related products,” Ms. Hagen said.

Additionally, the company will expand its Chinese research capabilities with a  research “Center of Excellence” (COE) to develop new nonwoven technology platforms yielding differentiated, higher-performing materials for the global healthcare, hygiene and industrial markets. This COE will be located at the PGI facility in Suzhou, China, in an expanded research facility. The center will focus on developing new technologies to significantly improve barrier, opacity, breathability, softness and comfort in engineered polymeric materials. 

A dedicated team of PGI scientists, researchers and engineers has been assembled to advance these properties that are critical in providing improved performance in infection control devices, hygiene products and protective apparel.

The COE will develop a collaborative work structure with PGI’s other global research and development facilities in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. It also will tap into Asia’s growing research and development capabilities and leverage existing technology expertise in Europe and North America by forming alliances with research companies, universities, technology think-tanks, raw material suppliers and customers. The Center of Excellence will focus on both product and process invention to further complement its global leadership in these fields.

In addition to hygiene and medical, PGI concentrates its efforts on the wipes and industrial markets. 

In the wipes area, PGI continues to find success with its Spinlace product, a continuous filament wipes-producing technology, which was launched in April 2007 and doing well in the hard surface cleaning market. PGI created Spinlace to bridge the gap between value and performance in wipes. By eliminating the carded manufacturing steps, PGI is combining continuous filament pulp and its proprietary Apex imaging technology to achieve the performance attributes customers want at competitive prices.    

“Our consumer wipes offering are particularly strong in hard surface cleaning applications,” Ms. Hagen said. “In the industrial market segment where the recession had the greatest impact, we are beginning to see some very good improvements and have worked to focus our business on core markets where we can establish scale and a sustainable leading position.”

Looking forward, PGI will continue to expand its businesses in its core markets: hygiene, healthcare, wipes, and select industrial applications. “We are very pleased with our advancement in underdeveloped countries and will continue to offer differentiated products where we have a strong presence in developed countries,” Ms. Hagen concluded.
Charlotte, NC
www.polymergroupinc.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $1.2 billion

Key Personnel: Veronica Hagen, president and CEO; Dennis Norman, executive vice president and CFO; Mike Hale, senior vice president, global supply chain; Scott Tracey, senior vice president, general manager, Americas; Jean-Marc Galvez, senior vice president, general manager, Europe; Leon Chang, senior vice president, general manager, Asia; Mary Tomasello, senior vice president, global human resources and employee communications; James Infinger, senior vice president, chief information officer; Daniel Rikard, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary and ethics compliance officer

Plants: Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, OR; North Bay, Ontario, Canada; The Netherlands; Tarragona, Spain; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia

Processes: Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlace, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace and other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brands: Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Arium, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Reticulon, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, TopSwell

The latest news from Polymer Group, Inc. (PGI) is a substantial organization redesign that realigns and repositions the company to leverage the benefits of its global footprint, aligning resources and capabilities with future growth opportunities. This new operating model is designed to better serve PGI’s customers, the company says.

One of the major components of the redesign is the creation of a Global Business Development (GBD) unit, which will be the growth engine of PGI. “The GBD will harness the strength of a consolidated approach that brings together its segment leadership, research and development team, sales and marketing operations and strategic planning personnel,” says Veronica (Ronee) Hagen, CEO.

Another key change within the redesign is the consolidation of PGI’s former U.S. and Latin America regions into a combined Americas region, which will be led by Scott Tracey. This will enable PGI to compete more effectively, while leveraging the strength of both regions to ensure better customer alignment.

Included in the Americas division are PGI sites in Cali, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Waynesboro, VA; Mooresville, NC; and Benson, NC, while the Clackamas, OR, and North Bay, Ontario, sites are part of the Fabrene business.

PGI also created a new Global Supply Chain unit as part of its organizational redesign. This new group will further integrate PGI’s strong global procurement team into the operational strategy of the business and to work even closer with its partners. The company will gain further efficiencies through a focused and standardized approach to operations across the supply chain. 

During the past several years, PGI has been ambitious in its spunmelt expansion strategy. In the Americas, this has meant new lines in Mooresville and Waynesboro, as well as significant expansion at all three of its sites in Latin America. The most recent addition has been a seventh line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which became operational in 2010.

“PGI has been a leader in Latin America for more than 15 years and continues to expect the market to grow,” Hagen adds. “The new line in Mexico has enhanced our capabilities in both the hygiene and healthcare markets, and PGI’s leadership continues to focus on having state-of-the-art capability in Latin America.”

While plans to expand into Brazil have been hinted at, for now, Hagen says serving this market from its existing sites is the right strategy for PGI and that any future expansion would be timed to market demand. 

Elsewhere in the Americas, PGI recently completed work on its latest custom-designed spunmelt line in Waynesboro, VA. This line not only gives the company state-of-the-art product barrier capability in North America but also provides the company with a platform for proprietary capabilities like Arium, a new nanofiber-based technology platform launched in November 2011, which enables submicron fiber production. 

This technology allows PGI to enter new markets with improved performance at an attractive price point, the company says. Arium gives PGI a competitive advantage to expand its business in new markets and bring its engineered materials into markets where nonwovens have not yet penetrated. 

In addition to its strong presence in the Americas, PGI has been building its footprint in Europe and Asia. The company operates a six-line site in Spain purchased from Tesalca-Texnovo in 2009. It also has sites in Nanhai and Suzhou, China, where a state-of-the-art spunmelt line—largely targeting healthcare applications—has recently become operational. 

“PGI foresees that the business conditions in China will continue to evolve and that the Asian market will continue to grow,” Hagen says. “The biggest challenge is to understand how quickly it will grow. A lot of participants in this market are struggling to understand what the new economy and new reality will look like in China.”

Opining that capacity announced for China is already in excess of demand, Hagen says PGI does not expect supply and demand to be balanced before 2016 if capacity comes on-line as planned. Still, the company continues to focus on investment in China and the timing of these investments will be tied to market demand.

Moreover, supply and demand is something PGI is monitoring closely in the global spunmelt market, where the company considers capacity installations are in excess of demand. “We believe this market is going to be under pressure for probably the next three to four years, causing particular distress for some of the industry’s smallest players,” Hagen says.

To combat these difficult situations, PGI is making sure that it has the right cost structure and is positioning itself with customers for strategic platforms that are delivering the right value. 

“The company’s historic discipline has been to install capacity based on customer-specific demand,” Hagen says. “PGI expects to leverage its global scope and breadth of technology to bring value to the market going forward. PGI has multiple opportunities for growth and expects to continue to grow as the market grows and to identify and innovate into new markets.”

Growing in its importance will be PGI’s specialty fabric businesses, which include a number of highly engineered material applications in a range of end uses, such as cable wrap, agriculture covers, fire resistant materials and filtration media.

“Our strategy in specialty fabric is to build scale and leadership within markets,” Hagen says. “For PGI, the specialty fabric market segment is one that we expect to be the incubator for new applications with both current and potentially new capabilities.”

One specialty market strong on PGI’s radar continues to be filtration, where it will become more intentional and direct in its market participation, according to executives. Additionally, its proprietary Arium technology is expected to help advance PGI’s role here.

Combining the high volumes of the hygiene market with the focus on innovation and differentiation demanded in industrial markets has been paying off for PGI. Last year, the company reported sales at $1.2 billion, despite the negative impact of the temporary closure of its Cali, Colombia, site for a portion of the year due to flooding. 

“Sales growth during the year was the result of improved volumes in the U.S. in our carded businesses and improved volumes in France and The Netherlands as the industrial markets improved,” Hagen says. “To further improve profitability, PGI is taking steps to ensure we have the right cost structure, the right technologies and the right products in the right places.” 
Charlotte, NC
www.polymergroupinc.com
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $1.15 billion
 
Key Personnel: Joel J. Hackney, Jr, president and CEO; Dennis Norman, executive vice president and CFO; Mike Hale, senior vice president and advisor to the CEO; Michael Modak, senior vice president, global growth and innovation offi cer; Daniel Guerrero, senior vice president, global supply chain lead; Scott Tracey, senior vice president, general manager, Americas; Jean-Marc Galvez, senior vice president, general manager, Europe; Robert Dale, senior vice president, general manager, Asia; Mary Tomasello, senior vice president, global human resources and employee communications;; Daniel Rikard, senior vice president, general counsel, secretary and ethics compliance officer
 
Plants: Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA;; North Bay, Ontario, Canada; Cujik, The Netherlands; Tarragona, Spain; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia
 
Processes: Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlace, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace and other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems
 
Brands: Agribon, Air-Gard, Chicopee, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, , Comfortsilk, Geca-Tapes, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Durawipe, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Pentamax, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Reticulon, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, TopSwell. Trademarked Technologies: Apex, Amira and Arium
 
A new CEO and a Chinese investment are among the recent headlines from Polymer Group Inc., Charlotte, NC. The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of spunmelt nonwovens with plants around the world and is also a producer of a range of nonwovens technologies.
 
In 2012, the company reported sales volumes increased 6.1% but sales decreased slightly to $1.15 billion due to lower raw material pricing. According to executives, highlights of the year included increased volumes in the Americas thanks to stronger sales in hygiene and wipes markets as well as strong sales in the Asian healthcare and hygiene market, thanks in part to the startup of a new spunmelt line in China in 2011.
 
In June 2013, PGI announced that CEO Veronica Hagen was retiring from her post after six years. She will be replaced by Joel Hackney, who has held varied global executive roles with General Electric, Nortel and Avaya.
 
“I am pleased to join PGI and energized by the prospects that lie ahead for the company,” Hackney says. “I will be focused on building on the previous momentum and strong foundation. Specifically, I am committed to achieving economic leadership and accelerating many of the growth initiatives that have been identified in our focus markets and increasing our strategic position with key customers”
 
Before her retirement, Hagen oversaw the organizational redesign at PGI that realigned and repositioned the company to leverage the benefi ts of its global footprint, aligning resources and capabilities with future growth opportunities. Among the major components of the redesign is the creation of a Global Growth and Innovation (GGI) unit, which will be the growth engine of PGI.
 
Another component of this redesign was the consolidation of its U.S. and Latin America regions into a combined Americas region. Included in this division are PGI sites in Cali, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Waynesboro, VA; Mooresville, NC; and Benson, NC.
 
This region continues to grow in importance to PGI despite the fact that the rapid rate of investment seen in the last decade has slowed in recent years. PGI’s most recent efforts in the region are a proprietary, custom-designed spunmelt line in Waynesboro, VA, which became operational in 2011 and a seventh line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which came onstream in 2010.
 
Meanwhile, across the globe investment continues in China, where PGI operates sites in Suzhou, China, where a state-of-the art spunmelt line came onstream in 2013, and Nanhai, where construction on a new site is currently underway.
 
The new plant in Nanhai, which replaces an existing site built in 1996, will allow the company to expand its manufacturing capacity for high quality nonwoven products for the global hygiene and healthcare markets. The investment will allow PGI to expand production of chemical bonded products for hygiene applications and better meet the needs of customers in the region.
 
PGI has operated in Nanhai for more than 15 years and the company will continue to expand the manufacturing footprint of the new site in sync with the needs of customers not only in China but throughout Asia.
 
“We see Nanhai’s location as a great spot to target growth in China as well as throughout Southeast Asia,” GGI Officer, Mike Modak says. “Adding a new plant will really give us the footprint to capitalize on this growth.”
 
The new Nanhai facility will combine the benefits of PGI’s current and new manufacturing technologies and is expected to be complete by the first half of 2016, with no disruptions to customers.
 
Elsewhere in China, PGI completed construction on a spunmelt line in Suzhou, China in mid 2013. The largest manufacturer of spunmelt nonwovens in the world, PGI also operates significant sites in Virginia, North Carolina, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.
 
Modak says the company is constantly looking at new areas for growth, despite an excess of capacity in many parts of the globe. “Everywhere is on our radar screen,” he says. “We have a strategy that is global but also supporting our customers as they grow globally. We have the luxury of looking at the market from a broad base. Hygiene is strong but we also are seeing great things coming out of our industrial businesses and we like what we are seeing in healthcare. Even wipes continues to grow.”
 
Last year, PGI unveiled a new platform technology to help broaden its participation across several non-hygiene markets. Arium uses submicron fibers to produce a matrix of fibers to deliver improved performance properties in a variety of applications in healthcare, industrial, filtration and other segments.
 
“Arium is a completely new technology platform for the industry that will enable us to meet the market need for increasingly cost-effective fabrics with improved performance at a value proposition unmatched by any other submicron fiber technology,” said Hagen at the time of the launch. “Just as we did with our Apex and Spinlace technologies, PGI is leading the industry and investing in game-changing platforms.”
 
Currently produced, Arium technology has been generating significant interest across a number of product categories, Modak reports. The submicron fibers contained in materials produced with the Arium technology can provide higher surface area, biosafety and tunable porosity that enhance performance benefits such as absorbency, adsorption, opacity, softness, barrier protection, acoustic performance and high-efficiency filtration. The technology can be used alone or along with another technology.
 
“We are always looking at new technologies and the possibility of adding to our portfolio,” Modak says. “We see a lot of trends in the marketplace and we try as hard as we can to make sure our product offerings stand up to those trends.”
 
While Modak could not comment specifically on what is in the pipeline, he did cite improved softness in newer generation spunmelt products targeting the diaper market as one example of how PGI is constantly seeking ways to build out its portfolio.
 
“We have the luxury of looking at the market from a broad base,” he says. “Part of the challenge is getting the right sequence right, chasing the right markets and the right geographies.” 
Charlotte, NC
www.polymergroupinc.com
2013 Nonwovens Sales: $1.2 billion ($2 billion, pro forma)

Key Personnel
J. Joel Hackney, Jr.; president, CEO and director; Dennis E. Norman, executive vice president and CFO; Robert Dale, president, APAC and global healthcare; Jean-Marc Galvez, president, EMEA and global building and geosynthetics; Scott Tracey, president, North America and global wipes and technical specialties; Barry Murash, president, global operations and business excellence; Herminio V. S. de Freitas, president, South America and global hygiene; Daniel Guerrero, senior vice president, strategy and business development; Daniel L. Rikard, senior vice president, general counsel, secretary and ethics compliance officer; Robert Holmes, senior vice president, global human resources and employee communications

Plants
Worldwide Headquarters: Charlotte, NC; United States: Benson, Mooresville and Statesville, NC; Clackamas, OR; Old Hickory, TN; Waynesboro, VA. Canada: North Bay, Ontario. Latin America: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Pouso Alegre and São José dos Pinhais, Brazil; Cali, Colombia; San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Europe: Bailleul, France; Aschersleben, Beisheim and Berlin, Germany; Terno d’Isola, Italy; Tarragona, Spain; Cuijk, The Netherlands; Aberdare, United Kingdom; Maldon, UK. Asia: Mundra, India; Nanhai and Suzhou, China


Processes
Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlace, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace and other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems  

Trademarked Technologies
Apex, Amira, Arium, Nuvibond, Reemay, Spinlace, S-Tex, Typar

Brands
Agribon, Agryl Novagryl, Air-Gard, Chicopee, Chifonet Wipeschix, Chux, Comfortsilk, Covertan Pro, Durawipe, Geca Tapes, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Pentamax, Reicrop, Reticulon, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, Sur-Prep Wipes, Reemay, Typar, Terram, Topswell, Tubex

With two major acquisitions under its belt as well as an ambitious growth strategy, PGI has become the world’s largest producer of nonwovens. In 2013, sales for the Charlotte, NC-based manufacturer exceeded $1.2 billion, up from$1.15 billion the prior year, thanks to the acquisition of Fiberweb during the fourth quarter, increased sales volumes in Asia as well as strength in the global healthcare and wipes markets.

These sales are expected to move considerably higher this year on the heels of the Fiberweb acquisition as well as the purchase of Companhia Providencia, which closed this May. These acquisitions, which had combined sales of about $700,000,000 place PGI out in front as the world’s largest maker of nonwovens.

“At PGI, we believe that the industry can benefit from a strong industry player,” says CEO Joel Hackney. “Fiberweb diversifies PGI from a portfolio perspective, adds some significant research and development activities as well as some tremendous industry talent.”

As Fiberweb helps to diversify the company outside of hygiene, the Providencia acquisition gives his company immediate access to the Brazilian hygiene market, which along with China, has been earmarked as an important growth area, as well as a state-of-the-art assets in North America. Providencia established a North American manufacturing operation in 2010 when it added a spunmelt line in Statesville, SC. A second line, the company’s 13th in total, was completed in early 2013. The line increased global capacity by 20,000 tons while allowing Providencia to develop higher value-added nonwovens and improve the product mix available to its U.S. customers.

“Not only does the Providencia acquisition give us geographical reach into faster growth regions like Brazil, it also give us access state-of-the-art technology and to some interesting new techonologies, like bicomponent nonwovens and laminating,” Hackney explains.

As competition intensifies in the hygiene market, PGI will defend itself with an arsenal of technologies developed by itself and its newly acquired companies. These include S-Tex, developed by Fiberweb, bicomponent material developed by Providencia and Premium Soft, a technology made by PGI in the U.S. and China.

PGI has also built a strong global manufacturing footprint to defend itself.  PGI has maintained a sharp focus in Latin America with investments in Cali, Colombia, Buenos Aires Argentina and San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and the Providencia acquisition now extends its reach into Brazil. Meanwhile, in the U.S., PGI has spunmelt operations in Waynesboro, VA and Mooresville, NC as well as a seven-line facility in Spain.

In non-hygiene related market, an area where PGI has been focusing as part of its diversification strategy, PGI has invested $8 million to upgrade machinery and expand its manufacturing plant in Waynesboro, VA. By the end of 2014, PGI will refurbish more than 20,000 square feet at the plant, upgrade an existing research and development machine used to create proprietary filtration technology, install two additional assets and improve the existing quality lab with state-of-the-art equipment.

According to PGI, the investment increases its portfolio for the filtration market to include assets for two nanofiber technologies. When the investment is complete, PGI will be one of the only nonwovens companies able to make every component needed to make synthetic composites for enhanced mechanical filtration applications. These composites will initially target the HVAC, facemask, fluid power and automotive cabin air markets.

“We are zeroing in on investing where we can add more customized solutions in areas where PGI has not yet invested,” Hackney says.

Growth in adjacent markets, in fact, is one of the key operational imperatives implemented by Hackney since taking over the helm of the company, and the acquisition of Fiberweb has given PGI nice headway in reaching this goal.

Acquiring Fiberweb gives us a tremendous opportunity to transfer technologies into new markets,” Hackney explains.

With 2012 sales reported at $460 million, Fiberweb operated plants in Old Hickory, TN, Aschersleben and Berlin, Germany, Pontypool, Maldon and Aberdare, U.K., Terno d’Isola, Spain, Mundra, India and Biesheim, France and operated through two divisions, technical fabrics and geosynthetics

In March, PGI announced it would exit the European roofing business, forcing the shutdown of two lines in Berlin and the closure of the Aschersleben facility. Officials chalked up the decision to its desire to optimize its portfolio for sustainable growth.

“We are constantly trying to improve the day-to-day of the business and we found that there were better roofing opportunities elsewhere,” Hackney explains. “In Europe, the big focus for us is healthcare, hygiene, wipes and filtration.”

Other imperatives put forth by Hackney include improve economic preparedness, increasing market share in China and Brazil and focusing on leadership by developing talent.

Like Latin America, China has seen considerable investment over the years from PGI. The most recent investment has been the construction of a new site in Nanhai, China, which replaces an existing site built in 1996 and will allow the company to expand its manufacturing capacity for high quality nonwoven products for the global hygiene and healthcare markets.

The investment will allow PGI to expand production of chemical bonded products for hygiene applications and better meet the needs of customers in the region.   PGI has operated in Nanhai for more than 15 years and the company will continue to expand the manufacturing footprint of the new site in sync with the needs of customers not only in China but throughout Asia.  

The new Nanhai facility will combine the benefits of PGI’s current and new manufacturing technologies and is expected to be complete by the first half of 2016, with no disruptions to customers. 

Elsewhere in China, PGI completed construction on a spunmelt line in Suzhou, China in mid-2013. This new line is targeting hygiene and healthcare customers in the region.

Investments like theses, in Asia and elsewhere, as well as the integration of its newly acquired investments will continue to provide PGI with strong growth prospects during the next couple of years. “PGI is on a very solid financial footing today,” Hackney explains. “It is not only growing topline but it’s a healthy cash generating enterprising. We are growing our sales and our earnings.”